Its safe to say that the helicopter changed the way that we move passengers, cargo, soldiers and more. The ability for the helicopter to take off and land vertically has always hampered its ability to reach a faster top speed. But that’s all about to change with a new generation of helicopter that can travel as fast as a plane, but still perform all the tasks characteristic of a copter.
The origins of the Sikorsky X2 dates back to the S-69 Advanced Blade Concept in 1973. In 2008, this experimental copter made its first flight. Unlike traditional helicopters that use a stabilizing rotor at the aft of the fuselage, the X2 uses two counter-rotating blades to maintain stable flight. The prop at the aft of the X2 is mostly for propulsion, allowing is to hit speeds of 250 knots (290 mph). Check it out in action here:
Testing in 2010, the X2 hit speeds of 260 knots (300 mph) in a low dive. The 290-knot level-flight speed was an unofficial record. After stellar performances from the X2, it was retired in July of 2011, but its legacy was far from over. All of the lessons from the X2 are being baked into the upcoming Sikorski S-97 Raider.
The S-97 is set to be a high-speed scout and attack helicopter. It has a cruising speed of 253 mph, a “never exceed” speed of 276 mph, and a service ceiling of 10,000 feet. It replaces the aging Bell OH-58, which had a top speed of 117 mph.
It will be quite impressive to see such a revolutionary helicopter in action.